Long Term Effects of Propranolol on Portal Pressure in Cirrhotic Patients

Ana Maria Orban-Schiopu, Coralia Roxana Popescu

Department of Internal Medicine, University Hospital ELIAS, Bucharest


Bleeding from varices is a very serious complication in cirrhotic patients, with a mean mortality rate around 30%. If the portal vein pressure is decreased by pharmacological therapy the varices will not bleed and progressively decrease in size. The portal hypertension in cirrhotic patients develops as a consequence of two mechanisms: the increase of portal inflow and the increase of intrahepatic resistance. The aim of our study was to find out if propranolol can prevent the bleeding from esophageal varices and if it acts by reducing the portal inflow due to splanchnic vasodilatation. The study was initiated in 53 patients with portal hypertension, of whom 14 were withdrawn because of adverse effects of propranolol. Abdominal ultrasonography and Doppler of portal vein system were performed in all subjects. The ultrasonographic parameters were measured before and after a 3-year treatment with propranolol. The patients also underwent endoscopy for evaluation of esophageal varices; the endoscopy was repeated at the end-point of treatment. We noted that propranolol reduced the portal blood inflow and the size of esophageal varices, and that the incidence of hemorrhages by variceal rupture was very low in these patients.

Key words

Propranolol - liver cirrhosis - portal vein pressure - esophageal varices